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Movie: Joint Security Area (2000)
Genre: , ,
Director: Chan-wook Park
Date of Release: 09 Sep 2000
Duration: 110
IMDB Rating: 7.8/10
Movie review score

About Joint Security Area (2000)

Anytime the film went to english dialog, the film took a turn for the worse. Luckily though, 75% of the story is focused on the Korean border guards from both sides. I think the movie excellently describes the stupidity and rigidity of war and the military life – just like in the movie, all it ultimately leads to is friends killing each other for no good reason. Sophie E. Jean, (the gorgeous Yeong-ae Lee) of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission, is called in to head the investigation. Although a native Korean, I’ve always been skeptical of Korean movies. Just cut out the foreigners in the film and you have a masterpiece.. The two countries are still fighting in a sense the cold war, divided by loyalty to different creeds. The masterpiece falls apart when the film has to focus on the setup with the foreign actors (WHO ARE HORRIBLE!!!). Luckily one of them, a Swedish soldier has very little presence so he’s ok, but the investigators chief commander a Swiss general is not worthy of any screen time what so ever. In Korean cinema, brothers are often divided whilst, around them, a fractured society threatens and fights itself. It is not a whodunit, it is a story of human friendship above rules and almost fanatical enmity. It was finally started, I found myself laughed out to tears through the movie. I felt a range of emotions in this story culminating in a really great movie! The director’s achievement lies in tying all this into a reasonably convincing whole, moving the audience from the coldness of a military tribunal to the warm realm of human feeling. The basic plot involves a border incident that involves 2 North Korean soldiers allegedly murdered in a North border outpost by 2 South Korean military border guards. And i read that it is impossible to film in the Joint Security Area so they create a perfect replica for the film so is also a very valuable thing. Ultimately the ‘Joint Security Area’ becomes less a site of military stalemate than a place where emotional ties ought to provide their own justification and balance. It’s a philosophy that informs a good deal of JSA. Not to put too fine a point on it, the film suggests that, blocked by its own political impasse, Korea needs to loosen up and seek relief as it can. Well, this movie changed my whole outlook – it is a grippingly realistic movie that rips through the storyline. Korean films are just so far ahead of all else, it just defies belief. 9.5 out of 10 DVD: the last year the company Quality Films released in Mexico the collection “Cinema Xtreme: Asian Series”, with a lot of excellent films including this one. My next choice was Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, which was made one year previous to Oldboy, but which failed to impress me as much. I actually laughed out loud at the antics of the supposed “ememies” that were secretly friends. The most powerful scene was the last scene. Expecting an Asian remake of A few good men, I was pleasantly surprised to find a well acted movie with a different storyline. Lee straying into the Northern half of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and accidentally treading on a mine; his rescue by ‘the enemy’—two guards who work a stone’s throw from Lee’s own post, just on the other side of the border; and Lee’s eventual friendship with his rescuers, which sees him crossing into the North at night to spend time with his new pals. In the more profound JSA, national division provides a starting point for an examination of the human condition, as soldiers on either side of the line discover what it is to establish warm, normal interaction – even at terrible cost. I was moved with the sad story of friendship between brothers in this polemic theme. Even under the threat of execution, the soldiers in this film risk a friendship. In fact, I’m thankful to have watched this film. Apart from my comments on this film, what I really want to mention is about the director, Chanwook Park, who won the Grand-prize of Jury at the Cannes Film festival just a few days ago with his film, “oldboy”.

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Lee Soo-hyeok (Lee Byung-Hun) is the main suspect of the dead of two North Korean soldiers after he escape from the soldiers according to his confession but Major Sophie will find some contradictions in Lee’s confession, specially because of the number of bullets in the dead bodies. He will finish triology of the ‘revenge’ films probably next year (Sympathy for Lady vengeance). On paper, this plot promises much – Joint Security Area between two Koreas and a conflict there. That said, the character Sophie was totally unnecessary as I found her part to be a big nuisance. JSA was made in 2000, and I feared that, possibly, I might like this even less, since the subject matter didn’t particularly appeal to me. However, in the end, I came out totally amazed. I read that this is the number one movie of all time in Korea surpassing even Titanic. I needn’t have worried: Joint Security Area is a magnificent film that tells a gripping story whilst also delivering a poignant message about the stupidity of war. (1999). In other films it can appear as part of an action thriller (Shiri), or as the basis of a recent war film (Taegukgi, 2004), and so on. This is a must-see! This is where JSA becomes something more than just a kooky drama, and ends up reaching something special and poignant. This film, JSA, is not a film which really shows the director’s own directing style though he did a great job in this film. It’s supposed to be a serious movie, but not at all. Apart from this the direction was on point, as you would expect from Chan-wook Park, and the movie ends on a stunning note leaving you with a sweet aftertaste that the film doesn’t truly deserves. As usual, the cinematography of this film was very good and the DMZ areas looked very close to what I saw. Previously her superior has warned her that her real job is not to investigate, “who, but why,” and that “the outcome is less important than the procedure.” I was spellbound. Absolutely I loved this film. I am in the AirForce and spent time in Korea (A-Town, Kunsan Korea) and worked with the Army close to the DMZ, so most of the references in the movie I knew about. Highly recommended, if only for the last shot of the film which is almost literally a snapshot of the entire bond of friendship portrayed in the film, even beyond borders. Yitle (Brazil): “Zona de Risco” (“Zone of Risk”) I must admit when i first saw the cover of this movie my initial thoughts were “oh man another pointless testosterone military driven movie”, how wrong i was. The most emotionally powerful scene was the last scene. (At one point Park has two of the soldiers mock the solemnity and rigidity of the border by playing spitting games across the line. This movie is a metaphor for both Korea’s today, seeking to come closer to each but prepared to slit each others throat in a split second just the same. He is remarkable as a director in them. You will laugh, cry and shout! Also the Korean actress’s command of English for someone who is suppose to have learned Korean second hand in Switzerland, is awkward and fake. (A fact exacerbated by the poor spoken English of actress Lee and the woodenness of her Swedish companion). It is only once the viewer enters the experience of the soldiers – a process gradually revealed through a number of sometimes-gnomic flashbacks – that JSA becomes interesting. The actors, the cinematography, the dialogues, the timeline: everything was so much in tune. In fact, the North Korean leader even requested a copy for his viewing pleasure — perhaps to get his own look at what South Korea might be plotting, or maybe simply to be entertained with some great film-making.

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Conclusion: watch this excellent film, it was the biggest success in the history of Korean cinema and is another great film by the great Chan-wook Park. This could have easily been propagandistic in nature, with this South Korean film portraying the Northerners as mere caricatures of Communistic ideals, but instead the film happily sidesteps this and portrays both the North Koreans and South Koreans as kinsmen. This thing was so suspenseful and well made. Good luck! The bitter division of the country provides a frequent background to much of its cinema just as, in its way, the spectre of past nuclear destruction has haunted that of the Japanese. The smart Major finds lack of consistency in the statements of the survivors, and in spite of being pressed by her superior, she interviews South Koreans Sgt. Of course this movie is not a perfect one. IMHO, I would have used a Korean-European new face in the role. The acting of the so-called neutral investigators were miserable, Yeong ae Lee as the major was disappointing, and her Swedish colleague is not worth mentioning. The movie examined, re-examined and really brought us close not only to the events, but to the people in the story. After a while, Lee introduces his trusted workmate to his new ‘brothers’. The four become close friends, and spend time together drinking, gambling and playing games—that is until the night when their secret is discovered and things go remarkably pear-shaped! The cast is great and i think is not very easy to make a film about this difficult theme and all the actors and actresses are just perfect. Here, they tried and mostly failed due to a very usual and thus very schematic plot, often too poor and corny performances, often too predictable a next step. Apart and beyond, we are fed with a very trivial casual political soup of no fresh value This is one mysterious and yet beautiful movie! The movie is set in Korea and portrays how different people can set asides their differences and be able to see each other in the purest form, that we are the same, brothers and sisters. The film also features some beautiful cinematography – the scenes I remember are the tall grass (the minefield incident) and the muted cigarette exchange on top of a snow-covered hill. Sometimes the violent resolution of the country’s famous stand off promises mutually assured destruction, as is presented symbolically at the climax of Attack The Gas Station! This is a wonderfully crafted masterpiece that evokes the strongest emotions in a person’s heart. I saw this as the second half of a double bill and after the first five minutes of truly horrible english dialog I thought I was in for a rather lame movie going experience, but i was too be proven wrong. That picture explains everything that the director might have wanted to say. Raving reviews bursted out everywhere that no Korean movies would be better than this one. One more thing, I could hardly understand why two south soldiers ended up like that. And, of course, the story is extremely interesting for Germans. The end can be a bit hard to understand but that is not the important part of the movie. During the time, he worked as a film reviewer in film magazines. It illustrates quite subtly the delicate North-South emotions that transcends ideologies of the 2 regimes; it really is about characters and their situations, rather than actions. Koreans know how to cut great war epics. ) There’s a similar overhead shot later, this time looking down at a fallen soldier face up in the rain. In a nutshell, this film is a masterpiece when it focuses on the Korean actors and how they live in this overcrowded no mans land. The movie combines a very likable Hollywood touch with compelling plot action, in contrast to some very personal moments and an amazing sense of suspense in this movie. The acting and direction is perfect, whilst the script is funny and emotional.

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